The phoenix was a magnificent bird like creature that dwelled in paradise. Its both a fire and solar symbol showcasing strength and renewal. A phoenix represents transformation by dying in a fire and then being reborn from it.
“A heart filled with love is like a phoenix that no cage can imprison.” — Rumi
Where are my manners? You have been reading my ramblings for three weeks now and I haven’t introduced myself to you. Presenting Meherunisa Sheikh, a 41 year old aspiring writer and a confirmed day dreamer. My Muslim father and Punjabi mother had a love marriage but they parted ways a few years after my birth. So mom moved back to her parental home (Jammu) where I met and fell in love with my Nanuji– the biggest male influence in my life since.
Nanuji is a revolutionary at heart who adores Gandhian principles and strives to live by them. He pushed all four of his children towards higher education, regardless of a career in mind. His two sons chose to quit studying after graduation as they wanted in on the family business. Both his daughters surprised him by opting to go to UK for higher studies. Nanuji’s mother and wife were aghast at this and I have often heard of the massive rows that erupted over this.
But Nanuji persevered and while my Mausi studied to become a burns specialist, my mom hopped from Economics, political science to international relations. They both lived and studied together in UK for close to 10 years, invoking Nanima and Badi Beeji’s ire. Yes they did marry eventually and have kids and here I am telling the tale.
Growing up, I hardly saw my mom as she decided to spend her time working with the local charities and networking socially for them. My maternal uncles have two sons each, who weren’t great company for a young girl. Moreover, they were much older than me as my uncles married right out of college. I found much solace in the written word which was encouraged like how by Nanuji.
Holy Matrimony turned me to ashes
I was an average student who loved perusing literature and ultimately ended up studying just that. Nanuji championed every choice I made; be it education or anything else. But when it came to getting married, my mother and Nanima got their way. Friction of any sort was not my thing and I loved to be left alone to read or just daydream. So I never did put up any fight on the marriage front and gave into it when the time appeared.
I was married off in a business family to a man who checked every box of an eligible suitor on paper. But in reality he turned out to be a closet gay and I vacillated between running away or jumping from a tall building. Matters came to a head when my In laws decided to “return” me as I hadn’t produced an heir in over two years of marriage.
Nanuji was once again my champion and after a heart to heart talk with me, he simply brought me home. Oh yes the two women were up in arms but Nanuji threatened to go on a Satyagraha if they didn’t relent.
Resuscitating me to life
He pushed me into therapy for the depression he could see in me. At the suggestion of the therapist, he took me for a trip to Kashmir with a travel group. Needless to say people were zapped to see a 70+ gentleman towing a 27 year old woman into a trip to the valley. I can’t say I was great company for him as I simply felt limp from inside. It was like my lust for life had leached out of me, leaving an empty shell. But the trip did stir the embers of an interest for this region which flamed on into a fiery love in my later years.
It took me 5 years of therapy, travel and writing courses at the university, before I felt wholesome again. Nanuji cajoled the editors of one of the local dailies to let me write weekly in the paper on topics chosen mutually by the editor and me. The University course teachers too gave me a glowing recommendation which swung the scales in my favor, or so I like to think. I wasn’t paid for this writing but the thrill of seeing my name appear on the top of the column spurred me on.
The idea of an online diary which could have virtual readers sounded thrilling to me. It prompted the idea of starting a blog where I wrote whatever came to my mind. I connected with a confident and inspiring writing community which published great tips for budding writers. Next 3-4 years saw me write short stories for writing competitions which won hearty accolades and eventually an interest from a publishing firm.
Finally a phoenix begins to emerge
And so here I am on a self imposed exile all by myself to do justice to the confidence shown in me by the publishing house. Why Srinagar? As I mentioned, that trip made me fall in love with this region. I echo the sentiment of many others that there is something truly uniquely alluring in the air of Kashmir. Its sweet waters beguile not just the palate but complete senses into a serenity that is not experienced anywhere else. I am hoping true healing happens here and I rise like a proverbial phoenix from the fire that consumed me.
“Hope rises like a phoenix from the ashes of shattered dreams.” – S.A. Sachs
Alright that’s it from me for now and I must really get back to my writing. I will bid adieu with this interesting fact about Emperor Jahangir’s (Salim) love life.
Historians debunk the much romanticized affair of Salim and Anarkali as a piece of fiction. But he did fall in love and it was an equally disastrous affair. It’s said that when he fell in love with NoorJahan, she was already married to someone else. Of course Akbar was livid at this turn of events and did everything to stop Jahangir. Its only after Akbar died and Noorjahan became a widow that Jahangir approached her for marriage. She is said to be one of the most powerful Mughal queens who held court, gave out decisions and has a coinage named after her. A true phoenix if there ever was one.
What I love most about this fact is that she was born Meher-un-nisa and was later named NoorJahan–The light of the world– after she married Jahangir. So here’s hoping that I too do a phoenix like her and shine bright in the literary world.
I have been telling stories since a month now; hope you have been enjoying them. The tales are rich with reference to Kashmir which are derived from my personal travel experiences to this region. If you would like to follow this series, the following links will help you